harvey Smith says the incomparable AP McCoy’s record of 4,000 winners will never be beaten.
The showjumping legend, whose Auroras Encore won this year’s Grand National, led the tributes to the 18-time champion jockey who reached the magical milestone on Mountain Tunes at Towcester with a never-say-die ride which has become his hallmark over the past two decades.
McCoy has ridden almost 1,500 more winners than his nearest rival Richard Johnson and Smith, who trains at High Eldwick with his wife Sue, says the champion’s professionalism is a shining example to sports competitors from all pursuits.
“He is a total professional,” Smith told the Yorkshire Post. “4,000 winners – there will never be another. No one will equal it.
“You thought Stan Mellor was the iron man of racing when he was the first to reach 1,000 winners. Then (John) Francome. Then (Peter) Scudamore. Then (Richard) Dunwoody.
“No one can live with this fella – he is in a world of his own. It’s not a job, it’s a hobby. He’s driven by success and success breeds success.
“We’ve used him, me and Sue. He’s what you call an ‘every day man’. You get the same attention to detail, analysis and dealings with the owners every day. Tactics, riding, you name it. Big days or minor meetings, he’s the same.
“If they (jockeys) were all like that it would be much better racing. He’s a true professional because racing is a hobby to him.”
More than 4,000 racegoers, double the average attendance, crammed into Towcester’s picturesque track in Northamptonshire to watch McCoy become the first jump jockey in history to record 4,000 winners – a landmark only eclipsed by three Flat riders in the history of the sport.
After Church Field failed to be competitive in the champion’s first ride, he then bided his time on Mountain Tunes an hour later in the novice hurdle.
Yet, on the punishing uphill run to the home turn, McCoy’s mount appeared to be struggling and coming under pressure.
He was only just in contention at the second last, several lengths in arreas, and Kris Spin, ridden by Jamie Moore, had the race at their mercy approaching the final flight.
And then McCoy got to work. Under pressure so his quest could not overshadow his watching daughter Eve’s sixth birthday celebrations today, Mountain Tunes flew the last and then responded to the champion’s urgings on the race-changing charge to the line on supremely testing going.
As the watching crowd went delirious, McCoy even had time to glance across at the runner-up, raise his whip in quiet celebration and then smile as he crossed the line with half a length in hand.
After a double at Wetherby on Saturday, McCoy needed six winners for the 4,000 mark and was determined to reach this moment of history aboard a horse trained by Jonjo O’Neill and owned by JP McManus – the two men who have given him so much support in the past decade.
“It’s just amazing. You can’t put words to it, but the man is fantastic. He’s a fantastic man and a fantastic jockey,” said O’Neill, who trained McCoy’s 2010 Grand National winner Don’t Push It and 2012 Gold Cup victor Synchronised.
“Old horses, young horses, monkeys. You name it, he can win on it, that’s the fantastic thing about him – it doesn’t matter what it is. I can’t finds words to describe the fella.”
Equally charitable was Richard Johnson, the man who has spent a decorated career racing in McCoy’s shadow.
“He has changed riding, especially in the National Hunt field, and moved it forward,” said the perennial runner-up.
“It’s been a pleasure to ride with him and you’d struggle to find a nicer person to work with, either. He’s as hungry as he’s ever been, but he’s a gentleman as well.
“He’s got time for the youngsters coming through as much as anybody else, which is a great trait.”
And Stan Mellor is another to expect McCoy’s record to never be broken.
The 77-year-old said: “I was only 8st 10lb wet through but Tony is a taller guy, heavier built and stands the racket better.
“It took me a week to get my 1,00th winner.
“To do 18 championships, without losing out to injury, is incredible.
“He must be the best jockey of all time, Flat or jumps, because he has a great appetite for the game.”